The Dos and Don’ts of Pub Trivia

Don't take pub trivia too seriously.

Don’t take pub trivia too seriously.

Twice a week I host pub trivia on Brisbane’s northside different venues at the Chermside Westfield. On Tuesday nights I’m at the Beach House and then at the Chermside Tavern on Wednesday nights. Being a pub trivia host is the best job I’ve ever had, surpassing even my time working at various cinemas from the projection booth to the candy bar to the back office. Essentially, I’m being paid to entertain strangers in a way that it feels like I’m just hanging out with mates at the pub. The strangers eventually become mates. Hell, I was even asked to MC a wedding for two of my regular pub trivia punters. That was very rad.

It is, in the end, a job. As it is with all jobs there are things that happen that can get on a host’s nerves and even put the other teams in a bad mood. Most people don’t do these things but what can you do at pub trivia to make the night fun for you, everyone else and your host?

1. Don’t cheat.

Honestly, it should go without saying. Who cheats at pub trivia. Wether it be Googling answers or Shazaming songs, at pub trivia it is the lowest of low acts. You might think you’re outsmarting people by trying to hide it but cheaters always get caught. Your host has a very particular set of skills. They will find you and they will stop you.

In actual fact it’s more likely to be another team who catches you and then points you out to the host. I allow phone use at my trivia nights because I’ve gotten good at finding the cheaters. When I bust them, they are shamed to the entire pub and they are excluded from being able to win anything that night. The good thing is cheaters are rare. Most people are truly there for a good time and not to be a pub trivia Lance Armstrong.

2. Don’t play for sheep stations.

You’re at pub trivia. It’s mostly free, maybe a gold coin to play at some venues. This isn’t life or death. You won’t lose your house if you don’t get a question right. Don’t be the the stick in the mud that questions the wording of every question. The host most likely hasn’t written the question so all they have for clarification is exactly what they have been given. Unless the question is actually a riddle, don’t overthink most questions and assume it’s trying to be tricky. Your trivia host isn’t Gollum.

In the same vein, don’t be the person who challenges the host on a bunch of answers. Sometimes, yes, go for it. Everyone does make mistakes but if you challenge every second question the host will soon pull the ol’ “I’ve got the conch” and it’ll be their way or the highway.

Being lenient to the other teams is always preferable too. When marking another team and their answer is pretty damn close (within reason), don’t try and mark them down and argue with the host when they decide to accept the close enough answer. I’ve had teams try this at my trivia nights and the entire pub despises them. Being the pub trivia villain isn’t admirable.

3. Don’t talk through the whole night and then ask for everything to be repeated.

Repeating questions a thousand times drags the night out for everyone. The pub has to close eventually. Most good hosts will ask a question twice and also ask at the end of a round if anyone needs any repeats. They’ll probably also be happy to come over to your table to repeat a question if it’s a particularly loud pub. Any more than three repeats and you might need to see a hearing specialist.

Also listen for any rules or stipulations a host might put on questions. If they say they need a full sports team name or that a song is by multiple artists and that’s what’s needed for full points, complaints at the time of scoring will fall on deaf ears (much like the hint did when your host tried to help in the first place).

4. Don’t be a table hog.

If you know you have a small team and there are small tables available, don’t take the larger tables that can be used by larger teams. You can always move to a bigger table or booth once the night has begun. Having to get staff to move tables to accommodate bigger teams slows the night down for everyone.

5. Don’t yell out answers if there’s a trivia night that you’ve decided not to be a part of.

Not playing trivia and yelling out answers ruins the night for everyone who is actually there to play. You know the types. Usually the drunk up the back thinking they’re the smart ones by telling the whole pub who’s singing that song from the 70s or what country Machu Picchu is in. Even if they are the right answers, that person is the biggest idiot in the room. Always.

So that’s all the horrible don’ts out of the way. There’s a bunch of things you can do at trivia nights to make it fun for all too.

Does your team win nearly all the time? Give other prizes you might win during any bonus round games (if you always win them too) to another team who doesn’t win very often. Teams that win a lot sometimes become the villains of a venue. I’ve seen this change quickly when they share their bonus prizes around once in a while.

Always return any pens your host may lend to you. Pens are like gold to a trivia host but the pen goblins keep stealing them away little by little. Also, don’t be greedy when asking for pens. One should suffice and two is more than enough but only once each team has been catered for. If you need more than two pens, probably bring your own.

Do have fun with your host, crack jokes, flirt, bring lollies. I’m always open to “bribes” and creative compliments for an extra clue once in a while. Don’t ignore your host as if he or she is just the DVD you pop in to play SceneIt at home. They’re there to have fun too. If they come over for a chat they’re probably going to give a few nudges in the right direction too. Have a laugh with them. Nicer teams make for nicer hosts.

Some people say that the era of the smart phone will be the end of pub trivia. I don’t think that is the case. It just provides extra challenges for hosts. Every week I show up to my venues to a bunch of teams who are out with mates to have a laugh, a drink, a feed and good night.

If you’re ever around Chermside on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, pull a team together and come give your brain a work out at one of my trivia nights. Or do it at a pub in your local area. You can find a list of venues around Brisbane that do pub trivia with the company I work for at the Trivia Mill website.

But what about you? That’s what makes pub trivia better or worse from a host’s perspective. What do you love or hate about pub trivia from a player’s perspective? What can trivia hosts do better? Chew the fat on the good and bad of pub trivia in the comments.

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